If you've ever considered taking the RSCT's Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy course in Thornhill, you might be interested in learning about a couple of opportunities to attend free introductory information sessions where you can get an overview of the course and have your questions answered.
The first of these info sessions will be held on Thursday morning, Sept 6th at 8:45 am and the second will be held the following week on Tuesday, Sept. 11th at 7:30 pm.
The Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy course itself is being offered at two different times this year in Thornhill. Both groups begin in September and run through May.
The Saturday Morning group meets Saturdays from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm for 30 weeks, from Sept. 15th through May 18th
The Wednesday Morning group -- intended for Waldorf parents, but open to others as well -- meets from 8:45 am to 12:15 pm, Sept. 12th through May 8th, also for 30 weeks.
Both course are accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) as a prerequisite for Waldorf Teacher Education studies at the RSCT or elsewhere.
Arrangements have now been made for a gathering in tribute to Gene Campbell and her work on Saturday September 8th, 2018. The event will take place from 4-6 pm in the music room at the Toronto Waldorf School, at 9100 Bathurst Street in Thornhill, and will be followed by refreshments. Everyone is welcome!
Hopefully by then, the summer bridge construction will be finished and the normal Bathurst St. entrance to the Toronto Waldorf School will have been re-opened. Over the summer that entrance has been closed and all traffic to the school has been re-routed to a second new entrace at the back of the campus, off Bathurst Glen Drive.
Photo from May 2010 when Gene was at the RSCT for the Teacher Education Program Graduation Ceremony.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Gene Campbell. A reoccurrence of cancer led to its spreading rapidly and Gene died in hospital on Friday, August 3. Our thoughts and feelings are with Gene and her family. A gathering to pay tribute to Gene will be arranged to take place at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto at the beginning of September. We will inform you of the day and time once they are known.
Gene Campbell designed and led the RSCT's Foundation Studies in Anthroposophy Distance Learning program. Before that she was involved in bringing Waldorf to homeschoolers through her Chiron initiative, and through programs at the RSCT.
Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto
August 14th Update: A Gathering has now been planned to honour Gene Campbell and her work:
At the end of Friday morning's Indigenous Waldorf Week session, James Brian presented a certificate of affiliation to representatives of the Everlasting Tree School, on behalf of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). This confirms the school's status with AWSNA as a regisitered initiative. L-R in photo: Chandra Maracle, James Brian, Amy Bomberry, Kathy Smith, and Sean Thompson.
The end of a thing is always the hardest part. Being in such close contact with folks, learning, thinking, growing and changing with people is a process that is never direct, always dynamic, and fluid. So it is always hard when it comes to an end, because it feels scary and empty. Now that a teacher is not nearby to direct us, where should we go? What will be do? The sense of community that was build might feel like it is gone. What is powerful about this week is the sense of mission and commitment going forward. So many powerful ideas were presented to us and so many tools were given as a way to further our own investigations.
In fact, what may be an even bigger gift than the information about Haudenosaunee language, culture and history given to us, is that we now have a powerful framework by which to learn about all indigenous languages, cultures and histories. If we borrow from the Thanksgiving Address shared by Sean Thompson on the very first day, we now have a way to envision a path forward. We know then, that every culture has words, phrases and beliefs about what it means to approach the world and make sense of it. From the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, we know that there are words and phrases to represent winds, birds, animals, people, trees, plants and relationships. Knowing the word is not sufficient, however. One must learn the meaning, the significance and the symbolism of each one.
Thus, we can begin a study of the language, history or culture of the peoples around us by attempting to learn more of their worldview, their knowledge, and the way they understand knowledge. And what we immediately must see is the complexity of the worldview. It is in this complexity that we must enter, and learn from, with the greatest respect.
The Danger of a Single Story
In her TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” Chimamanda Adiche describes the challenge of overcoming our biases and stereotypes when we observe others. She reminds all of us that every single person is a complex and complicated individual with amazing experiences and unique perspectives. There is a danger in operating solely from a belief in a single way a person is or can be. Assuming that anyone can only be one way reduces their complexity, and takes away a part of their humanity.
As we learned this week it is absolutely essential that we carefully study, and work to understand the experiences of Indigenous folks around us. We cannot reduce people to simple stereotypes, to single stories, but rather, we must learn of the complexity of their experience, and appreciate this. In this way, we can come to truly appreciate a group of people.
“It Wasn’t False, But It Could Have Been a Little Bit Truer”
During the week, one of the most profound statements came during a story. When asked about a book on Haudenosaunee culture, Chandra Maracle assessed it, saying “it’s not false, but it could have been truer.” This line is crucial, in that it presents educators with a special challenge. It challenges us to work to understand the complexity of people, and to know more about their history, language and culture. It challenges us to continuously seek to learn and understand the cultures around us, to not reduce them to single stories for the sake of convenience or efficiency. The statement reminds us that we are constantly working to develop our knowledge, and that it is not an endpoint. Rather, it is a continuous path and destination. It is the continuous work of trying to learn about, and understand another culture’s worldview.
“There Needs to be Real Truth to Get Real Reconciliation”
All of this is to say that our learning and understanding this week is meant to serve as one step on our path. This week is not the end of what we are called upon to do. It is only the beginning of our task. This work represents the start of learning, engaging and developing our awareness around the experiences of the Indigenous people around us, as way to contribute to the one of the most important tasks of all: truth, reconciliation, and healing. In order to get to the reconciliation and healing, we must have the real truth, as Amy Bomberry said. It is in this work that healing can happen for all people.
It is in this task that we must make a commitment. It is central to the commitments we promise to hold, symbolized by the Wampum belt. It is central to the relationships we created this week. And in these relationships, the ending no longer has to be the hardest part, because we know it is only the first step of a greater work to be done.
Group photo of RSCT Indigenous Waldorf Week participants, under the pine tree in the TWS forest playground.
Today, we were given a profound gift by our Haudenosaunee teachers today that constituted a mental and spiritual reminder to all of us: we were gifted the reminder of our relationships to each other, and the work that must be done to keep them alive and healthy. We were reminded of the important historic ties we have towards each other, and the responsibility this places on us today as people, both Indigenous and others.
This reminder of relationship began today with our homework, where we discussed our own research on the Indigenous peoples on the lands where we come from. For me, this required a review of the Anishinaabe and Lakotah peoples of Minnesota. We were also asked to explore resources for learning about the peoples of our regions, and this showed me the various bookstores, galleries, the Minneapolis American Indian Center, and other spaces to learn about the experiences of these tribes.
From a practical standpoint, this useful for teachers to know, but it spoke much more deeply to the lesson we have been receiving all week long: of the need for us to learn about, and build relationships with the people around us. This lesson of relationship was then imparted deeply in the discussion of the Wampum belt history of the Haudenosaunee. What became evident was the deep, personal and powerful meaning these sacred symbols represent.
The Meaning of Law
Along with the profundity of relationships and responsibilities was considering the nature of law. In Western views, law often connotes restriction, confinement, or punishment. It was incredible to hear of the Wampum which represented the Great Law. While responsible for delineating behavior, the Great Law needs to be read with a different lens.
“Law” Sean Thompson told us, “is the great, large goodness and right-ness.” And fundamental to the large goodness and right-ness is the connection and relationships shared by people. Like the Wampum belt that represents it, it is the path, the way.
Passing around a wampum belt during Thursday's class.
Wampum Belts as Sacred Ties
In learning the history of the beads, belts, ties and colors, we learned of their significance as markers of relationship and responsibility. It was interesting to see and hear the stories of the various belts, and how they represented relationship between Haudenosaunee, members of the Six Nations, and to relationships with non-Natives, including the Dutch, French and British.
What is amazing about these representations is the significance of each color, each design, each bead, all of it. Each one represented a powerful reminder to parties connected to it of the supreme responsibility for maintaining the relationship it represented. This is not a call for perfect, pristine harmony and peace; it is a call to remember the connection forged by the relationship and value it. To think and consider the connection and relationship above anything that might be gained from desecrating the relationship.
And we were taught that, far from demonstrating a doctrine of separation, as in the one shown above, the belts demonstrate connection, friendship, and relationship. They a built in peace and reciprocity. They allow for, and even value, the diversity and difference in the lives of people, but still call on them to remember the connection, the relationship, and the respect.
An Invitation to Renew
While the Great Law implores us to build, cultivate and protect the relationships we share, these are not simple, or organic occurrences. The relationships we build must be taken care of. The require attention, care and conscious actions to keep healthy.
As we were told by Chandra Maracle, the single arrow can easily be broken, but the arrows bundled together are unbreakable. But the arrows must be kept together. And that means that the relationship must be looked after. It must be refreshed; it must be polished.
The most powerful symbol of this was shared with us at the end of our session, of the 50 Chiefs of the Confederacy, linking arms, around the great White Pine, to signify their connection and commitment to each other, and the protection of the Everlasting Tree.
This symbolizes, to me, a completely different view of humanity and reality; it symbolizes a deep, deep commitment to those who surround you, and a commitment to the connections we share. It symbolizes the need to view each other as legitimate people, with legitimate ideas and actions, and it symbolizes that I assume the same about you. It does not value supremacy, control or hierarchy. It values connection and togetherness. It reminds us that the Great Law is the Great Good. And that we must work together to acknowledge it, and each other.
It is part of the Original Instructions.
It is part of the Sacred Thing That Happened When We Were Given the Great Law.
It is a part of What We Must Remember.
It is part of What We Must Not Forget.
It is part of Living in the Shade of the Great Tree.
It is part of the Law That Is In The Seed.
(inspired by “The Law is in the Seed by Alex Jacobs).
This week has helped to inspire me to remember these connections, these relationships, and to work to keep them alive and strong.
We have been given so much by our Haudenosaunee instructors at the Indigenous Waldorf Week. It would be impossible to calculate the amount of content, history, language and perspective we have received listening to their stories, teachings and reflections.
Many of my colleagues have remarked how grateful they are to hear so much Mohawk speech and song. Many talk of how they are deeply inspired and touched by the materials they have seen, and want very much to know more about Indigenous people in their own communities.
The Gesture of Gratitude
Many people feel that the greatest force permeating this week is one of gratitude, of thanks. The gesture that has been brought to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers asks us to consider the notion of gratitude from a refreshed, and powerful perspective. From the very beginning of our week, we were immersed in a Mohawk way of thanks, of gratitude.
On the very first day, listening to the Thanksgiving Address in Mohawk language, with only pictures to orient our thinking, we were challenged to determine the significance of all we had heard and seen. As non-speaker, it was evident to me that what we had witnessed was important, and profound, but my first interpretation was not one of gratitude; I assumed that what I had seen and heard was a telling of the creation of the universe.
Recognizing a Need that has been Dormant
It was only after hearing the interpretation and translation from Amy Bomberry, Chandra Maracel and Sean Thompson that I understood the significance of what I had just heard, and perhaps more important, recognized a need in myself that is dormant. The need to have gratitude, the need to revere.
We were taught, for example, that students at Everlasting Tree are given the Thanksgiving Address throughout their entire schooling life. First they are shown, then they are taught, and then they make it their own. The idea of teaching, on a daily basis, the action of gratitude is such a powerful and profound notion.
The gesture that has been brought to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers asks us to consider the notion of gratitude from a refreshed, and powerful perspective.
The Waldorf Connection
This idea is one that is not foreign to Waldorf education. It is one that Waldorf education is absolutely in connection to. Consider, for example, one of the most used verses in Waldorf schools, “The sun with loving light,” which reminds us that, “in sunlight shining clear I revere.” Revere, to “to regard with respect tinged with awe.” To be aware. To venerate. We later say that from the sun, we receive “light and strength” and in return, we offer “love and thanks.”
What is different, and I argue, of supreme importance in the learning we have received this week comes from the depth and breadth of gratitude offered, and the constant reminder it engenders in us. The exercise of engaging in thanks, with “one mind” towards so many things, from the winds to the sun, moon and stars, from the insects to the water and fish, we are implored to remember all of the things around us that require our respect and reverence.
If this is offered every day as a deliberate practice, I wonder how the treatment of each of these beings would change. As Chandra pointed out to us on the second day, our actions can become destructive when we do not live with this gratitude in mind. To have gratitude towards all things would no doubt cause us to treat things in a very different way, and with a very different feeling.
Our second and third days of engaging with the Thanksgiving Address, we were challenged to think more deeply about the importance of relationship implied within it. Not only did we think about the gratitude we had for each element, being or creature, we then thought about how these beings all interconnected and impacted each other in a web of reality and relationship.
Seeing the Connections between Beings
Much like the web we built with Amy on the first day, our engagement with the Thanksgiving Address challenged us to see the connections between all of these beings, and perhaps, as important, to envision the connections we could not see. To ask ourselves “what do all of these things need from each other, and what do they need from us?” This gratitude calls on us to revere what we see, and what we don’t see.
To give gratitude to the people around us, but to equally give gratitude to the ancestors who came long before us, and to those to come. We may give gratitude to the plants that nourish us, but do we remember to thank the insects that work diligently to help make fruits and vegetables a viable food for us?
Our engagement with the Thanksgiving Address challenged us to see the connections between all of these beings, and perhaps, as important, to envision the connections we could not see
What all of this has challenged in me, and others I have heard, is the degree to which I offer gratitude to all things. As I sit here writing, drinking my iced coffee, it occurred to me that I did not stop to consider the water that went into making this, the coffee beans that grew on a plant, the person who made this for me to nourish myself and enjoy.
The idea of a daily action of gratitude, and a method for offering gratitude to all that is, is one that many have said will become central to their daily practice. I for one am deeply humbled and grateful to have received this learning, that I am approach the world with more gratitude, awareness and consciousness.
Adrienne Keene, professor of education at Brown University, and the author of the critically acclaimed blog “Native Appropriations” (http://nativeappropriations.com/) wrote a critique of the famous Coachella, a multi-day music, art and lifestyle festival held yearly in California.
Coachella has been under close scrutiny by Indigenous people, and people of color in general, for many years. This critique comes largely from the observation that many concert attendees, largely white, will often utilize pieces of regalia, religious material culture, and essential pieces of traditional clothing as parts of costumes or festival wear, with little no knowledge or respect for the origin or significance of the item they are using.
Culturally Appropriate or Cultural Appropriation?
Keene writes specifically of seeing young white men and women attending the festival in feathered headdresses, and the pain and distress this causes. She reminds us that “eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned" and are not used as simple “festival wear.”
The danger of using other culture’s sacred symbols, artifacts and material culture is a dehumanizing act. “When you can't see the humanity in people who are different from you, you find no fault in treating their sacred cultural symbols as something to be worn and discarded” Jessica Andrews writes.
Herein lies another important question to ask as we engage in discussions, interactions and connections in the Indigenous Waldorf Week here in Toronto: a question of what, if anything, can non-Native folks incorporate into their classrooms. It is here that we enter the territory of cultural appropriation.
Like many terms, this one has come to be used in so many situations, and by so many different groups, that it is difficult to pin down exactly what it is, and, for the purposes of work as Waldorf educators, knowledge of when one is perpetrating it.
A simple definition of cultural appropriation would be the one Maisha Z. Johnson uses, where she notes that cultural appropriation looks like “taking from a marginalized group without permission, and usually without respect for or knowledge about their culture.” This definition is useful, in that it points out the problem of a lack of permission, the lack of respect, and the lack of knowledge.
If we add to this the problem of intending to honor, support or appreciate a culture, but in actuality, the impact hurts them, we are coming closer to the heart of cultural appropriation. With too little knowledge, respect, or permission, we can be hurting people way more than helping them. And it is important to remember that members of the culture get to make that call.
When cultural appreciation actually enacts an erasing or dehumaninizing of people, we must listen to them when they tell us so. Cultural appropriation is a problem of a lack of permission, the lack of respect, and the lack of knowledge. It is here that we can begin to question ourselves and our learning at the Indigenous Waldorf Week.
We have learned that parts of what we have been taught by our amazing instructors might be used at various times, and with various groups of children, not just Native youth. Bringing parts of Haudenosaunee culture to non-Native children can help to raise their awareness of history, culture and contributions of peoples different from them.
What Can We Bring to Non-Indigenous Children?
Issues of cultural appropriation may arise when we consider introducing, sharing and teaching about the experiences of other cultures, which can include bringing stories, songs, dances or other parts of culture to youth, especially for non-Native teachers. The question has arisen multiple times in our class discussion as to what can be brought to children, but does not become an act of cultural appropriation.
There are few things we can ask ourselves to think about whether or not our actions are cultural appropriation.
1) Am I doing sufficient research about the culture I am examining? This includes, to the best of your ability, talking to folks from the culture and not just relying on books about them, since these are often not written by the people themselves
2) Am I possibly using a sacred symbol? Do I know enough about the culture to know if I am using a sacred symbol in an inappropriate way? And if I don’t know, how can I figure this out?
3) Am I robbing from a culture? Put another way, am I gaining some benefit out of what I am doing that does not benefit the culture itself? When I use material culture from another group, am I making sure that the culture I am working with benefits in some way?
4) Am I mocking a culture? Is what I am doing a legitimate practice, that I am allowed to use, or am I using a caricature or stereotype of the culture as a representation? Many songs, thought to be written by Indigenous people, for example, are in fact, not. And if you are in doubt, it is best to leave it out.
5) Am I listening when someone from the culture gives me feedback about what I am doing?
All of this leads us back to key points given to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers: the significance of acting with gratitude towards our relationships. If we have a relationship with folks and truly wish to honor it with gratitude, we will not dehumanize people.
We will be thoughtful, respectful and careful with our actions. Do we have permission to use things, are we using them in the way we they were given to us? And are using them with a proper sense of gratitude for who gave them? Are we honoring our relationships? Are we seeking to learn and understand? Are we seeking to live in a “good way?” All of these questions help us to know and see the way forward as we think about our work with children.
Quite apart from his work for legal raw milk, biodynamic farmer Michael Schmidt has for many decades hosted students from the RSCT's Foundation Studies program for farm visits and preparation-stirring demonstrations. Music has always been one of Michael's interests as well, and he has presented many professional performance in his barn since before the turn of the century. The 2018 Symphony in the Barn promises to be one of the best yet. The following is from a news release for the event:
Convicted raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt announces 2018 festival and plans for new arts centre hub
(Durham, July ON): Farmer, advocate and conductor Michael Schmidt has been at the forefront of the national battle for the legal sale of raw milk in Canada for over twenty-four years.
From Prison to the Supreme Court
In Schmidt’s recent November 2017 court case he was sentenced to fifteen weekends in maximum security at the Penetanguishene Prison for obstructing a peace officer during a raid on his farm.
Currently out on appeal, his sentencing was swiftly followed by a permanent injunction issued by Justice P.W. Sutherland in a January 2018 court hearing in Newmarket, Ontario, which restrains any further raw milk production without licenses.
While the battle is headed to the Supreme Court of Canada, Schmidt continues to find new means to stand his ground, this time with his new Centre for Performance and AgriCulture.
Plans for a New Performing Arts Venue
This summer Schmidt will announce major plans to build the dynamic multimedia performance venue to house his yearly festival and year-round innovative educational and multidisciplinary programming.
Schmidt’s festival entitled “Symphony in the Barn” has been host to performances and bespoke events for nearly twenty years, drawing musicians, chefs and creators like the Bolshoi Ballet, pianist Anton Kuerti, and chef Michael Stadtlander, from around the world.
Twenty International Musicians
The 2018 Symphony in the Barn Festival (August 3 -5, 2018) will host over 20 international musicians for a one-week residency on the farm leading up to a weekend of performances, installations and finely curated dining experiences.
The event is the annual pinnacle of Schmidt’s progressive thinking on shifting our perspectives on food rights and consumerism.
The new Centre for Performance and AgriCulture will utilize state-of-the-art construction methods, renewable, solar and geothermal energy sources, accessibility design, and become a hub to enhance the interaction of the arts within society at large.
“Symphony in the Barn evolved as a cultural necessity to creatively connect farmers and artists. The substance of creating music is nourished by the everyday creative force of a living farm, and vice versa.” says Schmidt.
Are The States Leaving Canada Behind?
“Over the twenty-four years that Ontario has been prosecuting Schmidt, the number of U.S. states that have enacted laws allowing consumers to access raw milk has risen from 26 to 42.
Canada is the only G-7 country that completely prohibits the distribution and sale of raw milk, through both federal and provincial laws. In many European countries, raw milk is sold in vending machines. Italy alone has about 1,300 such machines.” – courtesy of Business Financial Post
Many things about this morning were incredible. Being able to see Haudenosaunee folks, speaking their language, telling their stories, describing their lives, and teaching, is a powerful testament to the resilience of indigenous folks.
From Trauma to Resilience
Sean Thompson may have provided the best frame for this, telling us that if there is a thing like “intergenerational trauma” then there must also be something like “intergenerational resilience.”
When we speak of resilience, we are considering the practices and methods which support the strength and well-being of peoples, that they can persevere in the face of trauma, aggression and oppression, to succeed in the fulfillment of their own potential and special gifts.
The Fullest Manifestation of Themselves
These processes are not meant to make students successful in the traditional sense of the word, like good grades, good attendance, and behaviors that are deemed appropriate in school. 1 Rather, these resiliency practices are designed to support people in connecting to themselves, and to their culture, in order to develop into their fullest manifestation of themselves.
As Dr. Martin Brokenleg (Rosebud Souix) notes, resiliency contributes to the development of “respectful, responsible children” who are able to address and resolve issues of trauma.
When we speak of resilience, we are considering the practices and methods which support the strength and well-being of peoples, that they can persevere in the face of trauma, aggression and oppression, to succeed in the fulfillment of their own potential and special gifts.
Part of what we are seeing in the work of folks like Amy Bomberry, Sean Thompson, Chandra Maracle and others is an incredible act of resilience.
Protocols of Ceremony and Story
The maintenance of their language and cultural practices, exhibited in the offering of the Thanksgiving Address, for example, demonstrates a powerful connection to language, to “protocols” of ceremony and story, as Amy noted, and to the power of tradition.
What is so very intriguing about their work is its connection to Waldorf-education and Anthroposophy, a Germanic education reform and spiritual movement established in the early 1900s by Rudolf Steiner.
Their approach is unique in that it considers the potential for engagement and confluence between aspects of Waldorf education and their own Haudenosaunee based educational philosophy and practice. It is around these questions of confluence that the richest discussions can be had.
Part of what is interesting about the discussions we have had thus far is the summed up in a quote from Sean, which he is reported to have said after spending time at the Everlasting Tree School, and prior to his completion of Waldorf teacher training: “there’s something going on here, I can feel it in my heart.”
Blend of Thought
It is here that Waldorf education and Indigenous education practitioners and theorists can have some important conversations. How can Haudenosaunee and anthroposophy have a “blend of thought” as Chandra put it? Notice, as we consider this question through the lens of resilience, that we ask how, not “if.”
Because there are many that might criticize or critique these conversations, stating that Waldorf education is not appropriate for Indigenous peoples because it is European. Resiliency maintains that people are able to enact practices to support their academic and social success in school, the health of their family and friend relationships, and healthy community interactions, according to Brokenleg.
Nowhere does this maintain that it must occur through a particular approach or modality. Thus, rather than being a rejection of traditional ideals and beliefs in favour of European norms and sensibilities, the work of Everlasting Tree demonstrates the work of blending and confluence of different approaches. This was evident in the descriptions of relationship, and its importance in Haudenosaunee culture and tradition.
The Relationship of the Adult to the Child
Paramount to this is the significance of the relationship of the adult to the child as being a spiritual bond. The “spiritual life” of a child is seen as central here, as evidenced by the practice of “introducing children to the world.” Thus, children are perceived to be functional people, with particular needs to be attended to. The children are taught that “all of the things in the world are here for you. All of the people and beings are here on this earth to help you” as Amy noted.
The children are taught that “all of the things in the world are here for you. All of the people and beings are here on this earth to help you.”
These sessions at Rudolf Steiner Centre will no doubt help to enliven great learning and thinking amongst the participants, and will also help us to consider the new movements and impulses of Waldorf education.
The Everlasting Tree School offers an incredible example of meeting the future with impulses from tradition, from new movements, and from a desire to develop strong, resilient Indigenous children. It is a blessing to attend these sessions and be a part of the rich, beautiful learning here.
1. Though undoubtedly, these effects are often the side effects of
While the Summer Festival unfolds here at the RSCT in Thornhill, half way around the world, another team of RSCT faculty are busy leading an four-week Foundation Studies intensive in Hanoi Vietnam from July 9th to August 3rd. Presenter Grant Davis took time out of his busy schedule there to send us this brief report and these photos:
Putting together the first-ever RSCT Foundation Studies in Hanoi, Vietnam, we have from Canada the teachers Reg Down and Grant Davis and the translators Trinh Huynh and Lan Nguyen. We also have a new volunteer teacher, Miki Higashine, who is delivering unplanned and greatly appreciated lectures on Waldorf teaching. Next week Reg and Miki will leave Vietnam and Jonathan Snow and Regine Kurek will arrive.
We are based in northern Vietnam, in the capital city of Hanoi. The classes take place in a spacious music school, generously arranged by the school owner who is one of the class participants.
The students are all adults, mostly in their 20s and 30s. Most are women with a smaller proportion of men. Many are Waldorf teachers or parents of Waldorf children. Two older participants are parents of the translator.
The students are hard working note takers and enthusiastic questioners during the lecture sessions. They have been very joyous and engaged eurythmy students as well. I have never worked with such dedicated students of the planetary seals!
I have added a section on ‘Buddha to Christ’ to relate to this predominantly Buddhist country and a section on Curative Education by request from the many Waldorf teachers in the audience. Much of the rest of the course is pure Foundation studies and the students are taking it all in as well as any western group but in a very concentrated form - four weeks of back to back full days.
The students come from all across the country. Some traveling as far as 1000 kilometers. Devoting a whole month to these studies, in some cases away from a young family, show the tremendous commitment that many of them bring to this course.
The city in some ways is typical of a Southeast Asian city with a mix of traditional buildings and ‘western’ office towers and condos. You may see an electronics store side by side with a hundreds of years old temple.
The traffic appears chaotic to western eyes with hundreds of electric scooters vying for space among SUVs and mass transit buses. A scooter on which I am a passenger may pass an SUV on the right side in order to turn left - straight across the front of the car! Rather like the entrance to a beehive it all seems to work with no conflict.
Having visited many Asian countries and tasted a wide variety of dishes I must say that Vietnam food is among the most interesting and varied. The restaurants largely specialize in a single type of dish and reflect that in their name e.g. Banh Mi 25 sells excellent banh mi sandwiches and is found at number 25 Hang Ca street.
In answer to the question of how there came to be an RSCT Foundation Studies program taking place in Hanoi, Grant Davis sent this:
A year ago, my wife and I returned from a vacation to several Southeast Asian countries. Back in Toronto, I happened to meet Trinh in the street ‘by accident’. I commented on how much my wife and I enjoyed our stay in Vietnam. Another casual meeting or two between Trinh and I led to the question as to whether I might be willing to help the fledgling Waldorf and Anthroposophical community there. Eventually Trinh asked directly if I would be willing to present the Foundation Studies course in Vietnam.
I said yes and quickly Trinh and local Vietnamese organizers put together a venue and a substantial roster of interested participants. Working with the RSCT to ensure that the curriculum was of a sufficient standard to allow certificates of completion to be issued, we were soon in a position to present a complete plan and the registrations quickly followed.
Thanks to Grant Davis for the photos and the story.